I was worried about the time as I headed toward my ride along the Sweetwater River. I knew the commute would be time consuming as there exists no direct route from Lakeside (my home town) to Rancho San Diego. I had not left the house until 4:30, and the afternoon traffic was as bad or worse than expected.
At exactly 5:05 I slid into the parking lot in front the Hooley’s Bar and Grill, feeling relieved to have made the trip so quickly and to be off the roads. I was not a bit surprised when I looked around and saw no one I recognized … for the official ride time was to be 5:30.
I began to get a little concerned when the time hit 5:20 and still no one had yet to show. “Was I in the correct parking lot? Was the ride supposed to be today? Could it be that no one would show up for the ride because of the threat of rain? Am I going insane … having imagined responding to Daddio’s email?”
I suddenly felt at ease when Richard pulled his pickup truck between the white lines one space away and yelled, “Hi Joe,” through my downed window in that weird accent of his.
If I remembered correctly (which is highly unlikely) Richard had originally come from the east coast but had spent a good deal of time in the navy. However, his accent sounds eastern European to me.
As he told me about his Zumba classes he began to stretch. I couldn’t help but think he looked like a soccer official while I watched him.
Not long after the other riders began to filter in. Glen, the “sandaled” mountain biker, immediately began working on his bike. He was wearing sandals but had yet to change into his riding sandals.
Next to arrive were Joe, a BMX rider (whom I had called Little Joe or Tatoo Joe in the past) and a big, young fellow, who I couldn’t place right away.
The fact that some of the guys yelled out, “Look, it is Little Red Riding Dude,” didn’t help my memory a bit. But once I’d heard “Little Red Riding Dude” speak images had began to float back into my brain. We had shared a ride in north county a few years back and had later downed a few beers in some kind of bar and grill somewhere near Escondido. (Eventually I re-learned his name was Kevin).
Kevin proudly displayed the largest tattoo I have ever seen on a person’s calf. He said the symbol represented his family crest … his ancestors coming from Ireland, Scotland … pretty much every island in that area.
As expected, the last one to show was Daddio, our fearless leader. He quickly made the rounds, greeting each one of us with a hug, then got his back-up bike ready (his primary bike was in the shop getting converted to a 1 x 10). He said he was glad we were all there to help motivate him as he felt tired … about fifty percent of full capacity.
After Daddio said our rider’s prayer we headed out across Highway 94, stopping at the steel bridge for our standard group photo.
At the beginning of this ride we were traveling along the Sweetwater River from east to west. However, we are not talking about just cruising along some flat river bank.
Instead, we spent a great deal of time and effort either climbing up or dropping down ravines created by the massive San Miguel Mountain which lay just to the south of the river. Once past the mountain we did hit a stretch of fairly level trail.
Joe led most of the time. He said he was not in great shape due to lack of riding but exhibited excellent bike skills. All current or former BMX rider’s always seem to know there way around a bike … makes me wish I had spent more time on my bike as a kid instead of playing all those games that used a ball!
Kevin took a few turns leading while Richard tended to stay in the middle of the pack. Most the time Daddio stayed back with Glenn.
Occasionally we waited for everyone to catch up. I took these opportunities to photo my fellow riders as they approached.
The Sweetwater River starts in Cuyamaca State Park about 30 miles to the northeast. Most of the time the “river” resembles a small creek or less. (The clouds below show the headwaters, the water ripples represent the reservoir.)
However, at one point on the ride we came to a large swelling of water … one I did not remember from my previous rides in the area. I knew we were too far east to be seeing the Sweetwater Reservoir. After discussing the issue with my fellow riders we still have no idea why we had come across so much water.
The Tiki hut sits on top of a hill overlooking the reservoir … or what is left of the reservoir. Once a huge lake, the Sweetwater Reservoir had been reduced to a large pond by our Southern California droughts.
To get to the Tiki Hut we had to climb several steep switchbacks to get to the top of that hill. Joe led the way and I followed. After a combination of walking and riding the others eventually reached the top, which we found occupied by at least twenty runners … some kind of running club.
They jokingly asked if they could use our bikes to get back down the hill, then departed.
But, we were not headed down the hill just yet. Joe, who lives in the Sweetwater area (and therefore had more knowledge than the rest of us) recommended we climb a “little more” so we could take and awesome singletrack back down to the river.
So, we headed east, up San Miguel Mountain, for about a half a mile. Most of the trail was fairly flat until the end, which led up a steep fire road. Joe was harshly criticized for choosing a return route with so much climbing, but I enjoyed the chance to build my fitness and to take some more photos as I waited at the top.
The downhill he had proposed was awesome. I managed to get a photos of Daddio and Glen as they descended.
Once back down by the river Kevin led most of the way. Daddio had said he might want to take the dirt road (on the north side of the river) back instead of climbing up and down San Miguel’s ravines … but changed his mind and decided to suck it up.
Not more than a mile from the parking lot we finally had to turn on our lights … and only minutes later we were back to the bridge, and then the parking lot. We had encountered no rain and had no major spills.
I felt relieved to ride with a group who just wanted to have fun … not all uptight and worried about their previous best times on Strava segments. At one point Kevin showed us a photo of how to identify whether a young lady had the Zika virus on her bare bottom (which I can’t show).
Richard told us about a mountain biker whose handle bar cut right through his thigh. I easily found the photo on the net (which I hesitate to show). Could this really be possible … or was the photo faked?
Little Red Riding Dude also shared that he had put a whole bunch of riding balm on his butt prior to the ride. You can guess how that went over, especially since the back of Daddio’s riding jersey stated, “Wood is Good,” … of course referring to high quality liquor being aged in oak barrels.
And so goes another ECC ride!
During most visits I take many more photos than I can place on a page. To view every image I captured … 65 photos in all, please visit my Photo Gallery site.